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my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned—i. e., as some think, though I give my
life in self-sacrifice for the sake of others — and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing!
There is then, you will see, a giving of alms which is not charity: when men give because the world's eye is upon them, because they are expected to give—when men give from sheer importunity, because this widow troubleth mewhen they give hoping to receive as much again ; all such giving ranks far below real charity. It may be done, and yet the doer of it never have his heart touched at all; whereas, in all genuine charity, the moving spring must be from thence. It is out of the heart that men give gladly, readily, largely-out of their necessity; and only such giving can be rightly called charity.
So far, then, of the absence of charity. The want of it makes all else that is good in a man to be of no account. It is not, remember—charity is not one Christian grace among many, which one man may have, and another have not; but it is the Christian grace which all must have alike, and “without which, whosoever liveth is counted dead before God !” If I have not charity-whatever else I may have-if I have not charity, in God's
I sight I am nothing !
Let us next notice the marks by which true
charity may be known, as they are set down in the Epistle. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; that is the foremost property of charity. It suffereth long. The charitable man is a man of great forbearance, one whose patience you will not easily tire. Unlike most men, and most women, he is ever slow to anger, and of great pity. And not only is he slow to anger, and backward to take offence, but he is withal kind, active, and earnest in all offices of love and mercy. His chief happiness lies in making others happy-and no day will pass without some one being benefited by the exercise of his unwearied benevolence- no day on which he will not seek, and find occasion of doing good to his brethren.
Again: Charity envieth not. Charity is not jealous - charity can look at the prosperity of others, and not grudge them aught of their happinesscharity can see a neighbour receive a gift, and not cry out that it is undeserved, or that some one else is neglected.
Again : Charity vaunteth not itself. Charity, when she gives, does not sound a trumpet before her-does not boast of her good works- is not puffed up, nor proud - doth not behave itself unseemly. There is no arrogance, no self-assertion, no parade and ostentation in charity. Charity is unselfish, seeketh not her own; charity, I have said
it already, seeketh assiduously the welfare of others.
Again: Charity is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil ; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. These are all certain proofs of a charitable heart, and all tend to enhance the value of charity. They show how hard it is of attainment; for how rarely-how very rarely!- do we find a man who is not quick to think evil, quick to impute bad motives, and to put the worst construction upon his neighbour's acts and words; and how rare, too, is it to find a man who has no pleasure at all in wickedness — who never likes to hear of the illdoings of those around him!
And if this quality of charity serves to show that it is a rare virtue in the world; so also do these marks which follow,— Charity beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things! Think of these words, and what they
They mean that a charitable man is one who, in his judgment of others, and in his intercourse with others, does just the contrary to the usual practice of the world. The world is ever ready to unveil faults ; the charitable man covers, for that is the true rendering of the word bearethfaults. The world is ever suspicious of its neighbours, the charitable man is without suspicion – he believeth all things. The world jumps to the worst conclusion, runs down the unfortunate, and tramples on those who are fallen. The charitable man has hope even for these. He is full of pity, even when the guilt is proved. The charitable man will never join in pressing for extreme penalties. He will never give up a man as quite lost while he is alive-never close the door against a sinner's return. In cases where others despair, cases the most unpromising, he still hopes even against hope.
And here, again, it is plain to see on what model the charitable man is fashioned. Surely,
. you will say it of yourselves, surely, these are not the features of a common man ! These are the lines of that Face which was once so marred for us! This mind, this all-covering, all-believing, all-hoping, all-enduring mind, is the mind which was also in Christ Jesus !
In the last place, look at the position which charity holds with regard to the other Christian graces-look at what is said of the permanence, of the everlasting nature of charity. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall faib; whether there be tongues, they shall cease ; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
Prophecies, tongues, knowledge, all spiritual gifts and attainments, however high and valuable now, are but for a time. Their work done, they will be ended. But the work of charity will never be done. It will have scope hereafter as it has here. It alone, of all the great Christian qualities, abideth in the house for ever -is eternal in the heavens !
0! I beseech you, dwell often upon this thought,-Charity never faileth! We are passing on through one change and another, each to the end of our pilgrimage; we are getting nearer day by day to that which will be our last home. Three things are chiefly needed to help us on our way, to aid us in reaching the desired rest,-faith, hope, charity, these three ; but the greatest of these is charity!
In heaven, should we ever get there, faith will be swallowed up in sight. For there we shall see with open face that dear Lord, in Whom, though now we see Him not, we believe. And so, too, hope will not be wanted hereafter ; for the future things will then be ours, not only desired and longed for, but actually possessed !
But so, as I have said, there will be place neither for faith, nor for hope in heaven. But charity never faileth! It will be a principle as active hereafter, and more so, than it is here. It will be, we believe, the very element in which God's people will live, and move, and have their being—the blessed bond of their society abovethat by which they will realise the happiness of